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UT has reported its most impressive research year on record for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018, with $260 million in expenditures including projects to advance the development of hypersonic vehicles, further STEM education in East Tennessee, and study Antarctica as a means of better understanding Mars.

“We are doing more research on our campus than at any time in our 225-year history, and that work is directly benefiting the people of Tennessee,” said Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis. “The breadth and depth of the talent, knowledge, and expertise we have here in Knoxville extend from Appalachia to Mars.”

Universities typically measure their research enterprise in a given year using expenditures—the amount of money from grants, contracts, and other external resources spent conducting research.

Federal funding accounted for $117.8 million of UT’s expenditures in fiscal year 2018, with the remainder coming from institutional, state and local government, business, nonprofit, and other funds. The federal agencies that invested the most in UT research were the Department of Energy with $58.9 million, the National Science Foundation with $25.6 million, and the Department of Defense with $10.8 million.

The research fields with the top expenditures were industrial and manufacturing engineering with $46 million; electrical, electronic, and communications engineering with $21 million; and biological and biomedical sciences with $16.9 million.

Research outside of science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing fields accounted for more than $42 million in expenditures.

“This growth in our research shows that more than ever when federal agencies, institutions, industry partners, and other organizations need help solving problems, they come to the University of Tennessee,” said Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Nobles. “Our faculty are pursuing their passion through research, our students are contributing to this research and gaining hands-on experiences, and the scholarly pursuits of our faculty are allowing all of our students to continue to learn from some of the top experts in the world.”

The year’s research funding included several prominent projects:

  • A $9.8 million shared grant from the US Air Force Research Laboratory for UT Space Institute’s John Schmisseur and his colleagues to study the materials and structures for reusable hypersonic vehicles to travel at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound. UT is working with Purdue University and the University of Dayton Research Institute, which is the lead institution on the project.
  • A $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to further STEM education in Appalachia by recruiting and preparing secondary science and math teachers. VolsTeach for Appalachia, led by Lynn Hodge, an associate professor of mathematics education, is recruiting students through the Tennessee Promise program and providing them with unique opportunities in exchange for a commitment to teach their first four years in high-need school districts.
  • A joint $485,000 grant from NASA for continued study of Blood Falls, a unique biogeological feature on a glacier in Antarctica that has long been considered a model for the conditions on Mars. UT microbiologist Jill Mikucki and colleagues at the College of Charleston and the Planetary Science Institute hope that by further investigating the microorganisms associated with this feature, they can learn more about the potential for life on our neighboring planet.


Megan Boehnke (865-974-3242,